Vachier-Lagrave Wins Opening Blitz As Norway Chess Takes Off | Update: VIDEO

Vachier-Lagrave Wins Opening Blitz As Norway Chess Takes Off | Update: VIDEO

| 42 | Chess Event Coverage

On Monday morning GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave traveled from León, Spain via Paris to Stavanger. He arrived just minutes before the afternoon's press conference and eventually he won the Norway Chess blitz tournament in the evening.

It was only in April, during the Shamkir Chess tournament, that Vachier-Lagrave was invited to the 2015 Norway Chess tournament. At that moment he had already signed a contract with the Masters Tournament in León, and so he was playing chess in Spain on Sunday, and in Norway on Monday.

Check out our video report of the first day in Stavanger:

He traveled by car from Léon to Madrid and then flew to Paris and further to Stavanger on Monday morning. For a moment it seemed that the French GM might encounter some problems...

...but eventually everything ended all right: Vachier-Lagrave arrived in time at Stavanger airport. His name wasn't there, but instead Karjakin's could be seen, as the airport crew had mistakenly used last year's list to welcome the players:


MVL arrived in the hotel just minutes before the opening press conference. By then, nobody guessed that he would claim victory in the blitz tournament later that day.

The press conference started with some welcoming words by Stavanger's mayor Christine Sagen Helgø, and then it was time for the new Grand Chess Tour to be opened. Its ambassador, Garry Kasparov, had the honor to do so.

“It's an important day for chess,” Kasparov said. “I guess it's the first time since the GMA World Cup in the 1980s that the world champion is competing with other leading players on a regular basis.”

Garry Kasparov compared the Grand Chess Tour with the GMA period in the 1980s.

Rumors were finally confirmed that the plan is to include a fourth tournament in Jakarta, Indonesia in the 2016 Grand Chess Tour. The main idea is to have tournaments in all continents, “so that all the continents will have a chance to see all the best players in action,” explained Kasparov. “Wish us luck,” he added.

Then, all players were invited on stage, and all were asked one or two questions. Hikaru Nakamura had told Norwegian media that he finds Magnus Carlsen's style a bit dry, and he elaborated: “Well, it was an honest answer, I mean, he's the most consistent.

“Sometimes you have to play that way to be the most consistent and to not lose. That's why he's the world champion.”

The 10 players at the press conference.

Carlsen explained why he recently stopped drinking orange juice. “It's a way to be more calm during games,” he said, adding: “Unfortunately that will lead to more dry, boring chess!”

At the end of the day, Carlsen would finish the theme like this:

Players, organizers, journalists, sponsors and guests were then taken by boat to the beautiful Flor & Fjære island. The media representatives arrived first, and for them there was time enough for a tour by the daughter-in-law of the owner of the island, which is basically a family business.

It started as a farm in 1965, even though it was an island with mostly rocks. The farmer started to plant flowers for his wife to make bouquets, and this kept expanding. The garden is 10 ten times as big as seven years ago.

Many of the flowers only last for one season; each year 50,000 new ones are planted.

All of these fish have their own names, supposedly.

At about 5:30pm the blitz tournament started in the island's restaurant. The time control was 3 minutes plus 2 seconds increment, and the tiebreaks were the number of games as Black, the number of games won, the number ofgames won as Black, and finally a coin toss.

Vachier-Lagrave was the only player to start with 3.0/3, and that included a win over the world champ. The start was similar to their game in Shamkir in April, but then something went wrong for Black and Carlsen got a winning position — only to spoil it afterward.

It was Nakamura who inflicted the first loss upon the Frenchman — rather convincingly:

Kris Littlejohn is joining Nakamura again, in Khanty-Mansiysk and now here.

In the same round Carlsen tried the King's Gambit as White against Levon Aronian. Instead of trying to refute it, the Armenian latter chose one of the many solid variations, and easily equalized. It became exciting briefly, but then it was a draw anyway.

Who's afraid of the King's Gambit? Certainly not Aronian.

Big mistakes are inevitable at this time control. The blunder of the day was by Vishy Anand, who was winning by move 22, but with seconds on the clock went from +9 to -9 in a queen ending:

A huge blunder by Anand in that queen ending.

It might have been the most dramatic round in fact, since the following game was played at the same time on one of the other boards. Poor Jon Ludvig Hammer spoiled several good position, and here he was just com-ple-te-ly winning:

Jon Ludvig Hammer played better than his score suggests.

Norway Chess 2015 | Blitz, Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Vachier-Lagrave 2723 2954 phpfCo1l0.png 0 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 6.5/9
2 Nakamura 2802 2900 1 phpfCo1l0.png 0 ½ ½ 1 0 1 1 1 6.0/9
3 Carlsen 2876 2850 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 5.5/9 22.50
4 Giri 2773 2861 ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 0 ½ ½ 1 1 5.5/9 22.00
5 Anand 2804 2857 ½ ½ 0 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 1 ½ 1 1 5.5/9 20.75
6 Aronian 2780 2820 0 0 ½ 1 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1 1 5.0/9
7 Grischuk 2781 2744 ½ 1 1 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 0 0 ½ 4.0/9
8 Topalov 2798 2660 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png 0 1 3.0/9
9 Caruana 2805 2614 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 1 1 phpfCo1l0.png 0 2.5/9
10 Hammer 2677 2514 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/9

You can download the full PGN file with all blitz games here at TWIC.

“It's definitely not the most important thing here but of course it's good to play some decent chess, for once in a while,” Vachier-Lagrave told “Hopefully it will give me some inspiration for the real tournament.”

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave surprisingly won the opening blitz.

According to the regulations, in order of their place in the blitz standings the players could choose their lot number. The organizers let the first five players choose, and then assigned the other lot numbers themselves for the other five players.

For a while, wrong pairings circulated on the internet. When Alexander Grischuk complained (because he had specifically asked about it before the first round), he got to choose anyway.

His and Hammer's name were changed, and eventually the following pairings came about: 

Norway Chess 2015 | Schedule & Pairings

Round 1 16.06.15 16:00 CET   Round 2 17.06.15 16:00 CET
Giri - Grischuk   Grischuk - Aronian
Anand - Caruana   Hammer - Vachier-Lagrave
Carlsen - Topalov   Topalov - Nakamura
Nakamura - Hammer   Caruana - Carlsen
Vachier-Lagrave - Aronian   Giri - Anand
Round 3 18.06.15 16:00 CET   Round 4 19.06.15 16:00 CET
Anand - Grischuk   Grischuk - Hammer
Carlsen - Giri   Topalov - Aronian
Nakamura - Caruana   Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave
Vachier-Lagrave - Topalov   Giri - Nakamura
Aronian - Hammer   Anand - Carlsen
Round 5 21.06.15 16:00 CET   Round 6 22.06.15 16:00 CET
Carlsen - Grischuk   Grischuk - Topalov
Nakamura - Anand   Caruana - Hammer
Vachier-Lagrave - Giri   Giri - Aronian
Aronian - Caruana   Anand - Vachier-Lagrave
Hammer   Topalov   Carlsen - Nakamura
Round 7 23.06.15 16:00 CET   Round 8 24.06.15 16:00 CET
Nakamura - Grischuk   Grischuk - Caruana
Vachier-Lagrave - Carlsen   Giri - Topalov
Aronian - Anand   Anand - Hammer
Hammer - Giri   Carlsen - Aronian
Topalov - Caruana   Nakamura - Vachier-Lagrave
Round 9 25.06.15 15:00 CET        
Vachier-Lagrave - Grischuk        
Aronian - Nakamura        
Hammer - Carlsen        
Topalov - Anand        
Caruana - Giri        

Veselin Topalov joined by his old friend Silvio Danailov.
Friendly chats outside in between rounds...
...or a nice walk in the sun.
Carlsen, his father Henrik and his manager Espen Agdestein.

The Norway Chess tournament runs June 15-26 in the Stavanger region. | Games via TWIC phpfCo1l0.png
No time to watch the games live? No problem! The Norway Chess tournament is covered on with a daily recap show that runs 1.5 hours. The games will be analyzed and there's video material by Peter Doggers, who is covering the tournament from Stavanger. The show starts each day at 11 p.m. Central European time, 5 p.m. New York, 2 p.m. Pacific.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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